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Report from Hawaii - Darkness in Paradise

Dave Webb, Chair of CND, sent this eyewitness report on the increasing militarisation of Hawaii.

Been here a couple of days now – it’s an amazing place. A range of volcanic islands and a holiday paradise that is also one of the many military oppressed islands in the Pacific Region. The political and military importance of this region is not escaping the islanders. President Obama’s moves to escalate the US military presence here is threatening even further the lives and livelihoods of the people. It is unlikely that holidaymakers will be aware of the history of the Islands and the past and present domination of the US military industrial complex there – which exercises a cynical and arrogant display of power.

We are staying on Oahu, one of the Hawaii chain and the Island that includes Honolulu and Pearl Harbour and yesterday we had a 10-hour tour (known as the De-Tour) of the militarization of Oahu. Kyle Kajihiro, former director of the American Friends Services Committee peace program, is a long-time and dedicated peace worker who knows just about everything that is happening on this island. It’s strange that the national flag of Hawaii has a Union Jack in the top left corner and yet Hawaii was never a British colony. This apparently dates back to when the Islanders were trying to resist the US empire and wanted to develop friendly relations with Britain, even asking them to intervene. The US did of course eventually colonise the Islands and then encompassed them further as the 50th state in 1959.

Over 20% of the Island of Oahu is militarized and that figure is continually growing and set to grow exponentially in the near future. The trip was full of stories of how the Islanders have been lied to, tricked and generally downtrodden and abused and their environment polluted and destroyed over the years by the military. We drove past the High School attended by President Obama, it is a huge, well resourced campus, in direct contrast with conditions that so many indigenous families live in. Forced out of their houses for various reasons (take overs by the military or financial difficulties), many live in makeshift shanty towns on our near the beach. They are being threatened with being moved on yet again further away from the eyes of the well housed and well off US middle classes. They are known locally as the “houseless” rather than homeless - as the island is their home but they are not allowed or not able to be properly housed there. Their numbers are likely to increase further as Obama’s "pivotal shift" to the Asia-Pacific means that the US Pacific Command (PACOM) headquarters here will grow and its "area of responsibility" will become increasingly more important - and its mission much more aggressive. This can only be bad news for Hawaii and for the people of the Pacific.

On the tour we visited the Pearl Harbour Memorial (a US National Monument) which is a huge area overlooking the harbour (where a nuclear powered submarine and a nuclear powered aircraft carrier were on proud display with flags flying). Kyle showed us the little corner of the park that has been given over to the abbreviated and censored story of the indigenous people. It reminded me of the small corner of the Royal Armouries in Leeds given over to the Peace Museum. We also went past the NSA’s Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center (KRSOC). This is a secured, bomb-proof, underground installation established in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It is a sister establishment to Menwith Hill and Kyle told us that the whole thing is due to be moved to the NSA’s Central Security Service's Hawaii Regional Security Operations Center currently being constructed near Whitmore Village not too far away on Oahu, at the former site of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific, or NCTAMS PAC.

We were joined on our trip yesterday by two activists from another Hawaiian Island – Kauai. This is the home of “Barking Sands”, the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF - the world's largest missile testing and training range. In around two years time the PMRF will see a new missile testing complex – the “Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex” which is due to be built on two locations at the Westside base on the Island as a test and evaluation centre as one of the developments of the 2nd phase of President Obama’s “Phased Adaptive Approach” to Missile Defense.

We will be going there on Tuesday – see the image with this post.

Today (Monday 20th February) we are part of a mini-conference with about 20 people from key campaigns on at least three of Hawaiian islands. More from that later.

Dave

(Dave is currently travelling in the Pacific Region with Bruce Gagnon from the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and others)

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